“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Cat Boccaccio.
I frequent a popular blues club and like to watch the parade of avatars: tall, thin, stocky, plump, natural, strange, sexy, playful. And as more and more avatars dial back on their height and proportions, as espoused by Penny Patton in her blog, I see a greater gap in heights than ever before. The man who never got the memo and is still well over 7’, dances with an SL woman (say, like me, under 6’) and her legs dangle unceremoniously, a foot off the floor. My own height in Second Life is usually about 5’ 9” or so and I feel dwarfed in almost any environment I enter in Second Life.
Of course you can be any shape you want in SL. There are fairies and feys, hobbits and giants and more, all happily role playing in imaginative sims. There are also small avis, petites and dolls. There are tinies, furries, nekos. We all seem to live and let live, and yay for diversity!
When I list the possibilities, the human avatar starts to sound downright boring. But those are the avatars that I’m referring to – the majority of people in Second Life who wander, work and play in this world in the guise of a virtual human being.
For unknown reasons, Linden Lab starts us off very tall, with the default avatars for men at over 7’ and for women at over 6’. But as Ms Patton points out, there are issues with larger avatars that negatively affect our second lives.
For example, large avatars obviously require more space and land than smaller ones, and larger builds use more prims, leaving creators less to work with. The larger a mesh object is, the greater the Land Impact. I am all for the capacity to build a greater number of more detailed structures on the same land that once needed over-scaled buildings to accommodate over-scaled avatars.
It’s also much more difficult to proportion large avatars… for a specific example, look at how many tall men have T-rex length arms. It’s almost impossible to create an aesthetically pleasing, natural-looking large male avatar. I am often asked why I don’t exhibit more photographs of males– this is a main reason. When I photograph women, I always use shorter, scaled down shapes, because it is so much easier to create natural-looking avatars for photographs.
Linden Lab has changed but not improved the Second Life starter avatar, or the tools to adjust it. Until they do, we can all start to scale our avatars down ourselves, with the ultimate goal of improving our Second world, and simply making our SL selves more naturally proportioned and pleasing (and if normal and pleasing are not your goals, consider that you would definitely stand out in a world of attractive avatars).
I recently got the Penny Patton Vitruvian shapes, available for free on Marketplace or in her shop. These are based on DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, with the idea that a properly scaled and proportioned avatar is a good base on which to create your own custom shape.
So I tried out Penny’s 5’7” “Athletic Woman”, with the results shown above. Included in the set are Female Average, Athletic, Amazon, Dwarf, African and Japanese, and Male Average, Athletic, Dwarf, Commando and Roman. Of course they are fully modifiable. Also included is an ACCURATE height detector, since the height shown in the appearance editor is a good 6″ shorter than the actual avatar height, and most height detectors in SL are similarly flawed.
The wave of people supporting the idea of smaller avatars is swelling. Penny Patton’s human shapes (or even one of mine) are a great place to start. Wear your non-giant avatar proudly, and spread the word. Soon all the men, and the women, will “get the memo”, and we’ll be on the road to a richer Second Life.